Niki Lauda - in his own words

Paris (AFP) –


Niki Lauda, who has died aged 70, in his own words on his crash, his relationship with James Hunt, and his red cap:


On August 1, 1976, Lauda suffered horrific injuries when his car burst into flames on the Nuerburgring in Germany:

"I have a reason to look ugly. Most people don't."

"My then-wife fainted when she first saw me, so I knew it could not have been good. As I get older the scars get lost in the lines, and, well, you just get used to it."

"The main damage to myself was from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds. It was something like 800 degrees."

Monza comeback

Six weeks after being given the last rites in hospital Lauda staged one of the greatest sporting comebacks, racing again at Monza:

"Lying in bed ruminating about the 'Ring would have finished me. I said then and later that I had conquered my fear quickly and cleanly. That was a lie. But it would have been foolish to play into the hands of my rivals by confirming my weakness. At Monza, I was rigid with fear."

James Hunt

His relationship with the British driver was portrayed in the 2013 film 'Rush' - arch rivals they may have been, but friends too:

"We respected each other very much because in the old days, to drive 300 kilometres an hour side by side towards a corner, if someone makes a mistake, one or both are killed. Hunt was someone you could rely on to be really precise."

Red cap

"The cap is my protection from stupid people looking at me stupidly."

Kidney transplant

Lauda credited Birgit Wetzinger, his girlfriend of eight months who later became his wife, with giving him a new lease of life when she donated one of her kidneys in 2005:

"I asked my son Lucas if he would test to donate a kidney, but it did not fit.

"Birgit then said she would do the test, but I asked 'why would you do the test?' 'Because I want to', she said. I said 'you will never ever donate your kidney, because I'm ill and I've known you for eight (months)'.

"She did the test, and she did fit. For about three months she gave me always the same impression, 'I do it for you because I love you'. She was never frightened or asked any questions, it was just a pure approach 'I will do it'."